New online platform connects local buyers and sellers
By Jessica Laskey
When COVID-19 shut down businesses, Inside Sacramento created TAKE THE 100% LOCAL PLEDGE, a campaign to encourage Sacramentans to buy from local businesses—be it food, products or services—to help them stay afloat in the tenuous economy.
When Bryce McKernan noticed his favorite farmers markets in Midtown and Oak Park experiencing similar struggles, he decided to make buying local even easier. He created Marketbook, a virtual marketplace that brings locally made products and produce to the Sacramento community via an online platform modeled after e-commerce site Etsy.
At the beginning of the lockdown, “I continued to attend my local farmers markets and began ordering for pickup from some of my favorite local shops, restaurants and breweries—now with a fresh set of eyes,” says McKernan, a 24-year-old Midtown resident who originally hails from Canada. “Many of these vendors and retail locations had inadequately maintained, under-promoted websites—if they even had a website at all. They’d spent their time, money and energy to perfect their craft rather than create and grow their future online business.
“The sad truth is that the fight for consumer awareness and attention on digital platforms, like Facebook and Google, largely comes down to two areas where many small businesses do not thrive: technical ability and financial resources.”
Bryce McKernan made it his mission to help local small businesses develop a stronger online presence to keep them functioning during this unprecedented time. Using business and tech savvy gleaned from years working for novelty brand Chapel Hats (McKernan used to run stores at Arden Fair Mall and Roseville Galleria), he set up Marketbook and started soliciting users to join the free platform.
“I wanted it to have a distinct feel, just like an in-person farmers market,” McKernan says. “Having a lot of vendors, a lot of traffic and local products all in one place means everybody benefits. Bringing everything together (on one website) makes it easy for the customer to find things and means the businesses don’t need to have tech expertise. They can focus on what they’re good at and what they like to do—making their products.”
Vendors can add listings of their products or ask McKernan for help setting up their virtual shops. Users can then browse by product or location to find everything from fresh produce and baked goods to skincare products, crafts, apparel and other unique items. Purchases are available for pickup, delivery or shipping depending on the vendor, with the purpose of connecting buyers to sellers who live and work nearby. Payment is all handled online.
Bryce McKernan reports there are already more than 100 items for sale on the site from up to 45 vendors with an average of 50 to 100 daily users—and the site is growing every day. He hopes to eventually offer pickup from centralized locations around the city, but for now he’s just glad that people are connecting on this new platform.
“People see the difficult things going on around them right now,” McKernan says. “With Marketbook, they can contribute a little bit by getting handmade, locally produced products and continue to better our communities.”
For more information, visit mymarketbook.com.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.